NORTH Ayrshire's MP has been cleared of sexual misconduct against an SNP staff member in a Westminster bar.

Patricia Gibson had appealed against a ruling that her behaviour in Parliament’s Strangers Bar had amounted to sexual misconduct.

The man who complained - a young SNP staff member who also reported an “unwanted sexual advance” from MP Patrick Grady - initially raised the allegation of sexual misconduct against Ms Gibson in May 2021.

The allegation claimed "that [the respondent] subjected [the complainant] to unwelcome physical contact of a sexual nature on January 8, 2020 in the Stranger’s Bar in the Houses of Parliament when she was drunk, i.e. she stroked his arm and back (over his clothing) and asked him to 'come home and s**g me'".

The complaint alleged: "She repeatedly propositioned him in this way in the Stranger’s Bar that night and later she tried to pull him into a taxi with her at the end of the night at Carriage Gates, again asking him to go home with her."

Ms Gibson denied, and continues to deny, the allegation, stating that she was "intoxicated, and therefore unable confidently to recall her exact words and actions".

The staffer's complaint had been upheld by the Standards Commissioner, having initially been assessed by parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme.

However, an independent expert panel overturned that decision on appeal, and a report published today (Thursday) said that the investigation into the matter was "materially flawed in three respects".

The report said: "The investigator applied the wrong test in determining what constitutes conduct of a sexual nature in the Sexual Misconduct Policy.

"She failed to consider all the circumstances, including the complainant’s perspective, to decide whether it was reasonable to conclude that the conduct was sexual in nature.

"Procedural unfairness had arisen because of the substantial changes that the investigator made to the draft Formal Assessment Report after the Factual Accuracy Check.

"These followed representations from the respondent that the investigator had not made a factual finding in her draft report that the conduct complained of was conduct of a sexual nature. These changes exceeded what was permitted by the Sexual Misconduct Policy.

"The investigator’s treatment of evidence of the respondent’s personal circumstances and whether it might be relevant to whether the alleged behaviour was likely to have occurred or not was inconsistent and procedurally unfair."

The report, by retired judge Sir Stephen Irwin, said that the Commissioner "had not identified these material flaws with the investigation, or addressed them".

In her appeal, Ms Gibson argued that she had not been given an opportunity to respond to the initial findings, and called the situation "a breach of the principles of natural justice".

It was noted by the panel that their general policy is not to publish reports relating to appeals that have been upheld in favour of respondents, however, the report's author stated that the "significant media reporting relating to this case, as well as substantial comment on social media" had persuaded them to make the details public.

The report said: "These have resulted in Ms Gibson receiving pronounced negative media attention; online abuse and harassment, including sexual threats; and physical damage to her constituency office.

"It is therefore appropriate that the decision that the complaint against her has not been upheld, and the reasons why, should be published."

Despite upholding Ms Gibson's appeal, the panel noted that the complaint was not "vexatious or made in bad faith".

In a statement, Ms Gibson said: “I am grateful to the Independent Expert Panel for its work and comprehensive assessment of this case. I am reassured that the Independent Expert Panel has exonerated me, and has found that I am not guilty and that the investigation into this case was materially flawed.

“I have always maintained my innocence. It has been a very difficult 16 months during which my reputation has been wrongly and repeatedly traduced in the press and on social media, which has also jeopardised my personal safety with threats, abuse and harassment.

“I have found this period extremely traumatic but I am pleased that my reputation has been restored and now wish to draw a line under this matter and look to the future.”